Athletes Express Concerns Regarding Olympic Open Water Test Event

by Tomas Rodriguez 23

August 12th, 2019 News, Open Water, Tokyo 2020


  • Sunday, August 8th, 2019
  • Odaiba Marine Park, Japan
  • Open Water Swimming
  • Start time: 7 AM (local time in Tokyo, Japan)
  • No results issued

Swimmers who competed at the test event expressed concerns related to the water quality and temperature at a marathon swimming test event for the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympics which took place on Sunday, August 11, 2019. Per the Organizing Committee, Sunday’s open-water race was performed with the purpose of operational testing, therefore no results have been published.

The event started at 7 a.m. with the air temperature already over 30 degrees Celsius in the Japanese capital city. Between July 29th and August 4th of this year, 57 people have lost their lives resulting from heat-related illnesses in the Japanese capital.

“That was the warmest race I’ve ever done,” 3-time Olympic medalist Ous Mellouli of Tunisia told Agence-France Presse (AFP). “It felt good for the first 2km then I got super overheated.”

Japanese swimmer Yumi Kida told the AFP that the water was “a little stinky, and the clarity was not very good so I really want to improve the quality.” She also expressed concern over the water temperature.

Last year, the Organizing Committee performed water surveys using an underwater screen to try and contain water contamination and gave thee screens a positive review.

This year, the Committee installed a single-layer screen for yesterday’s test event, and plan to apply a triple-layer screen next year at the Olympics. These screens are designed to keep disease-causing agents like E. coli away from the swimmers.

Several rowers competing at the World Rowing Junior Championships yesterday in Tokyo had to be treated after experiencing symptoms of heatstroke. That tournament also served as a test event for next year’s Olympics.

The water temperature there reached 34 degrees Celsius (93 Fahrenheit) at the Olympic rowing venue Sea Forest Waterway, which is where the test event took place. The Sea Forest Waterway is 14.5 kilometers (9.01 miles) away from Odaiba Marine Park, where marathon swimming will take place.

Based on FINA’s rules, athletes may not race when the water temperature exceeds 31 degrees Celcius (88 Fahrenheit). Further, FINA’s executive director Cornel Marculescu said competitors’ well-being was the top priority.

In the summer of 2017, water tests conducted revealed that day-to-day water quality at Odaiba varied significantly depending on weather conditions, particularly on whether or not it had rained. Of the samples collected over the test period, just 10 days saw the marathon swimming water quality standards meet those specified by FINA, while only 6 days saw the triathlon quality standards meet those specified by the International Triathlon Union (ITU).

Tokyo 2020 organizers have pledged to keep water clean and safe ongoing, however, time is running out for the water quality to be improved by August, the timeframe of the Pan Pacs. In late 2018, Tokyo officials announced that they had been able to use underwater triple-layer screens to improve the water’s quality.

Leave a Reply

Notify of
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
1 year ago

Improving the quality of the water is one thing, but they can’t control the water temperature like a pool. I wonder what will happen if the temperature reaches above 31 degrees (which is highly likely since the olympics is happening same time of the year)? Will the athletes be relocated to compete in a cooler place?

Reply to  Justhereforfun
1 year ago

Don’t forget Fran Crippen

1 year ago

93 is nearing hot tub temp that’s insane

Joel Lin
Reply to  Bruh
1 year ago

Yes. It is irresponsible to put these athletes at risk in the Olympics. This race should be relocated to a different shore in Japan with more accommodating conditions. There’s plainly nothing they can do to bring the water temperature of a harbor down 8 degrees.

1 year ago

I’ve scuba dove in mid 80s degrees in the Philippines and that was very warm, no way you could safely or effectively race in 90 degree water. If the water isn’t acting as a coolant your engines gonna overheat everytime.